The United States, Russia, and the People's Republic of China have all either deployed or are developing fifth-generation fighters. These are planes that sport stealth technology, high performance, and very advanced avionics.
However, there's another country looking at developing a fifth-generation fighter: Japan. This doesn't come as a surprise — last September, reports surfaced that Japan had developed an unmanned combat air vehicle along the lines of the X-47 program. It's clear that they're looking to modernize and upgrade.
The Mitsubishi X-2 in a hangar. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Hunini)
Historically, Japan has long been capable of building state-of-the-art jets. The Mitsubishi F-1 fighter, based on the T-2 trainer, was a successful, indigenous fighter design. Mitsubishi also built F-4 and F-15 fighters for the Japanese Self-Defense Force under a license from McDonnell-Douglas (later Boeing) in the 1980s and 1990s. They went on to develop indigenous upgrades for the F-4 and a roided-up version of the F-16, the F-2.
Japan currently is test flying the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin, also known as the ATD-X. The plane first flew in 2016 and is expected to have an internal 20mm cannon and six bays for a mixture of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance. MilitaryFactory.com notes that it has a top speed of just under 1,600 miles per hour. The X-2 is comparable to the Advanced Tactical Fighter prototypes that flew in the early 1990s, including the YF-22 Lightning and the YF-23 Black Widow.
This model of the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin was used for wind-tunnel testing. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Hunini)
Should the X-2 successfully complete its test flight, Japan would be well on their way to fielding a true fifth-generation fighter. Such a fighter is likely to be designated F-3. Mitsubishi will likely produce the plane, making it the latest in a long line of deadly fighters the company has produced, including the legendary A6M "Zero."
Learn more about the X-2 in the video below: